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May, 04 2015

A hit & fit business opportunity!

Time is right to invest in a business with strong muscle power as India’s fitness industry is projected to become trillion in size.

Swanky gyms at residential catchments and high streets have now replaced neighbourhood akhadas that were meant only for men. As demographics changing, household income rising than before and new-age consumer is turning out to be much more conscious about fitness has entirely evolved the fitness industry.  Today, more than half of the country's population is suffering from lifestyle diseases such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes owing to sedentary lifestyles, stressful jobs, consumption of fast food, idolizing movie celebs, and dearth of physical activity are growth propellers that have opened prospects for fitness sector to grow.  In fact, people are becoming fitness conscious and love splurging on hefty gym membership fees and a following a regular fitness regime. This validates that there is a massive potential in fitness industry which is further opening boulevard of opportunities for franchisors and franchisees as fitness sector has a colossal scope in coming years.

On enlightening about growth propellers, Vikas Jain, Managing Director, Anytime Fitness, says: “Fitness industry used to be the domain of macho men, and the emphasis was more on body building. Today, when the lifestyle of people is getting more sedentary, fitness has assumed greater significance in order to maintain cardiovascular fitness and body weight. The scope is high as more youths are becoming fitness conscious. ”

While, Rizwan Sayed, Founder Director of Mumbai based  Your Fitness Club (YFC) believes that India is becoming more conscious about health and fitness and have disposable income.  He believes: “India's fitness industry is growing at rapid pace of more than 20% every year.”

Franchising building the brand power

Franchisors in fitness industry prefer franchisee owned company operated (FOCO) models over franchisee operated franchisee owned (FOFO) ones as the former has more control. Some of the major players are  Gold's Gym India, Force Fitness, Master Franchisee of Snap Fitness in India,  Chennai's Fitness One, Talwalkars HIFI, Anytime Fitness, VivaFit India, Mumbai based  Your Fitness Club (YFC), Leena Mogre's Fitness, Ireland based  Jymka Fun Family Fitness Centres, South India's Fitness One operates two formats FitnessOne Unisex Gym and PINK Fitness,  a pioneer in Women's wellness category and Contours International are stretching their nationwide expansion via franchise tie ups.

Talking about the growth their brand achieved via franchising, Arun Kathiresan, Managing Director, FitnessOne Group India Limited, says: “In FY 15, our number of stores grew by 20% and currently we have 45 centres across South India.” Whereas, “Gold's Gym India has 80% as franchisees and 20% as owned and we will continue with Thai strategy as we expand our brand presence,” informs G. Ramachandran, Promoter & Director, Gold's Gym India.

Are the Fitness Trainers fit enough?

When it comes to expanding a brand regionally, nationally or globally, fitness brands are often  seen juggling with various issues related to efficient manpower, finding a right real estate location, brand promotion and scaling the business growth trajectory are the trickiest challenges that  brands deal every now and then. To overcome such stumbling blocks, fitness brands are now exploring affordable yet competitive strategies to create a distinct value proposition and give tough edge to their competitors.

G. Ramachandran says, “This is indeed a serious issue and we have our academy where we groom trainers and are setting up a training centre to have a continuous development programme for trainers in terms of certification and up gradation of skills thereby addressing the issue of quality and retentive too.”

Alongside similar lines, Srileka Reddy, Director  Marketing, Force Fitness  Master Franchisee  Snap Fitness India, shares, “I strongly feel that selecting right real estate and quality of service are the two main challenges in fitness industry. We at Snap Fitness focus on training our staff. We also have a tie up with Australia based training partner  SEDA which provides certified training programme to our fitness trainers which is delivered via trained fitness experts from Australia and India.”

To overcome challenge of manpower, Arun Kathiresan, says: “FitnessOne has the academy to recruit and train Fitness Trainers, Dieticians, Physiotherapists after recruiting them through campus interviews.”

Real Estate is the toughest exercise to stay fit

Real estate factor is disturbing the franchisees all over.  Srileka Reddy of Snap Fitness says: “We believe in opening our fitness gyms within residential catchments so that it can be accessed easily by target customers. We prefer to open gyms on second or third floor which works better in terms of visibility. Snap Fitness Gyms are accessible and affordable and are usually opened in a space of 3,000 and 5,000 sq.ft.”

While, Rizwan Sayed says: “Finding the right location is the key to success. Evaluation of every lead and location personally with demography and market research is the essence of starting a new project and successfully running business model.”

Expansion forecast

Is service industry experiencing saturation in metros or is it the high real estate space which is influencing brands to move towards to tier II and III cities? Let's check out what experts feel. Vikas Jain says: “In tier II and III cities too, people are becoming health conscious, so the market is equally attractive. Also rural areas are a big market as its youth is increasingly becoming aware about staying fit and conscious towards health.”

“In tier I cities, competition is quite high and there is generally price war to acquire membership. Despite this, there is room for branded fitness centres to operate profitability in these markets. We have made entries to several under penetrated tier II markets,” says Arun Kathiresan.

Gold's Gym India which has 83 gyms has now up the ante and plans to open 100+ gyms by March 2016 and sign up to 150 gyms by March 2017. On the other hand, Rizwan Sayed of YFC believes that Franchise-owned Company-operated (FOCO) model for service industry is the way to go. He says: “We believe in complete hand-holding and protection for our investors and that has been the key to our growth. This year, we plan to open 30+ FOCO clubs with a target to expand in all tier-II cities.”

India's fitness industry has evolved greatly. All thanks to the fitness awareness encouraged by popular celebrities, sport stars and entry of international gym chains. As more and more gym chains are spreading their reach to smaller cities, the India's fitness industry is now slated to grow manifold in the coming years.


Brands understand the need to establish standards

Reaching untapped markets by partnering with franchisees with market know how

Developing best practices to support franchisees' network

Franchising will play a critical role in rapid expansion of brand

Tapping small cities







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